Manchester selectman Garry Hinckley rides over one of the bridges in the new trail area in Manchester on Tuesday as fellow selectman Bob Gasper watches. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

MANCHESTER — Cyclists and hikers in Manchester are now enjoying a walking and mountain biking loop trail that connects to Hallowell’s recreation area, known as “The RES.”

About a dozen people were involved with the creation and design of the trail, called the “Kerns Hill Connector.” That included a trail crew of three to four responsible for building the trail, assistance from members of the Manchester Conservation Commission, and a design from Chris Riley, president of the Central Maine Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association.

Garry Hinkley, who serves as a Manchester selectperson, is a member of the Central Maine Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association and an advisory member of the Manchester Conservation Commission, said the idea to build the trail came about recently, when the town acquired a parcel of land. The site in the Manchester Town Forest was a tax acquired property.

Hinkley said the project cost roughly $17,500. It was primarily funded by the town, with the assistance of a $2,500 National Park Service grant.

Construction on the 1.5 mile loop began in mid-May, but took longer than expected due to problems with rain and some members of the trail crew moving onto other projects. Hinkley said the actual construction time was roughly four weeks.

No large trees were cut down, and old skidder trails were used to help create the new trail. The bulk of the project involved creating five bridges, two short ones and three fairly long bridges to go over wet and swampy areas.

“Moving bridge materials was quite an undertaking,” he said, adding that volunteers were literally carrying in bridge materials to the work site.

The finished trail area connects directly to Hallowell’s “The RES,” which itself contains 4.5 miles of single track trails specifically made for mountain biking and hiking.

Garry Hinckley rides his fat-tired mountain bike Tuesday in the recently built trail area off Kerns Hill Road in Manchester. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Riley said in a news release that trail usage has increased significantly since the construction of the Kerns Hill Connector.

“Adding more adjacent trails in Manchester will relieve some of the pressure on ‘The RES,’ and provide a more enjoyable and rewarding experience,” Riley said. “Our trail crew did a great job. I asked them to be creative with the trail layout and especially with the several bridges they constructed, and they did not disappoint. So far, the feedback on the KHC has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Looking ahead, Hinkley said the town hopes to expand the trail system by building on two additional parcels of land in the Manchester Town Forests.

“This is actually phase one in a multi-part process,” Hinkley said. “We’re submitting an application very shortly to see if we can build out the rest of the trails next year.”

He said Julie Isbill, the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program project manager, was a tremendous help with the first phase of the project, and that she had also worked with Hallowell for similar projects.

Looking ahead, he said Isbill is helping the town obtain a grant to help fund the conversion of the additional two parcels into trails.

The estimated cost for this second phase, according to Hinkley, is roughly $50,000.

“We expect it will be very popular,” Hinkley said of the recently finished Kerns Hill Connector. “I think people are going to like using it. It’s a good place to go on a nature walk, and it provides additional access to the existing trail system. We were happy to be able to do it.”


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